If you’re one of the 12,000 writers traveling to the 2017 Association of Writing Professionals (AWP) conference in Washington D.C. this week, you’re not alone in wanting to take action against the new threats to our community—from attacks on the media to the barring of international artists to the decimation of federal arts funding. While it may be happenstance that this year’s conference will take place in the very city demanding our collective attention, it provides a crucial occasion to band together with fellow writers, take a stand for creative freedoms, and tone our activism muscles for the long road ahead.

Dozens of literary organizations, publications, and individual writers attending the conference have crafted opportunities for activism during our time together in Washington, including a Candlelight Vigil for Free Expression, visits to the offices of your local representatives with Writers Resist Trump, and panels on topics ranging from translation as advocacy to challenging book bans.

For your convenience, we’ve compiled a guide, below, to all the events focused on activism—both official AWP events and off-site extracurriculars. If you know of an AWP event or session that we’ve missed for this guide, please contact us at [email protected]

We hope we’ll see you there. #LouderTogether



Translation as/and Advocacy.
(Antonio Aiello, Canaan Morse, Alta Price, Eric M.B. Becker, Erica Mena)
Marquis Salon 6, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Two
Literary translation provides a unique and valuable window into the histories and narratives of other cultures. At PEN we believe that the act of literary translation can be a form of international advocacy, allowing readers to explore the literary and narrative trends of some of the world’s least translated territories. Translators and editors discuss the importance translation plays in cultural exchange and grapple with the question of what is lost when so many stories go untranslated.

Which Comes First, Activism or Artist?. (George Higgins, Martin Espada, Airea D. Matthews, Eleanor Wilner)
Marquis Salon 5, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Two
Confronted with social wrongs, should we, as writers, feel obligated to use our art to advocate for our gender, race, or a political cause? What goes into that choice and what is at stake? If we do so use our art, how do we face injustice and still craft aesthetically compelling poems? Five poets explore the question raised at Fisk in 1966 between Robert Hayden and the Black Arts movement—Am I a poet first, or am I a black poet?—and explore how this question applies to all of us today.

Translation as a Political Act. (Jennifer Kronovet, Aditi Machado, Pierre Joris, James Shea)
Room 208AB, Washington Convention Center, Level Two
Translators often consider how their work influences the cultural landscape into which they translate, but equally important is how the translator creates political ripple effects, welcome or not, in the author’s home country. Panelists translating from Chinese, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish discuss their experiences navigating cultural politics, censorship, and nationalism, as they explore the political consequences and ethical burdens of serving as a medium between cultures.

Degree of Change: Using Your MFA in Social Justice Nonprofit Work.
(Tara Libert, Julia Mascioli, Kathy Crutcher, Emma Snyder, Juan Peterson)
Room 204C, Washington Convention Center, Level Two
Three dynamic nonprofits using literature to elevate unheard voices and share untold stories describe their unique collaboration and discuss opportunities for MFA writers to bring about social change. Shout Mouse Press, PEN/Faulkner Writers in Schools Program, and Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop facilitate writing workshops, publish original works, and provide author visits in DC’s most marginalized communities.

1:30PM – 2:45PM
The Political Woman: Historical Novelists Reimagine and Reclaim Women’s Place in Politics. (Erin Lindsay McCabe, Gina Mulligan , Karen Joy Fowler, Alex Myers, Mary Volmer)
Marquis Salon 7 & 8, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Two
While rarely central and often discounted, women have always played a role in politics. In this panel, historical novelists discuss how and why they chose to unearth and reimagine the lost and untold stories of women in politics. What are the risks and rewards of using fiction to place women at the center of political narratives? What liberties are novelists compelled, or unwilling, to take with the historical record?

1:30PM – 2:45PM
The Immigrant as Translator, Sponsored by ALTA.(Johannes Goransson, Lina Maria Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas, Alireza Taheri Araghi, Aron Aji)
Room 203AB, Washington Convention Center, Level Two R225
Many different paradigms of translation are based on the idea that the translator is someone who ventures out in the world and brings back foreign texts. How is our thinking about translation changed if the translator is an immigrant (or emigrant) who comes from a foreign culture and literary tradition? Are the issues facing an immigrant translator different from a native English-speaker?

3PM – 4:15PM
Agents of Change: Social Justice and Activism in the Literary Community.
(Ashaki Jackson, Elmaz Abinader, Tony Valenzuela, Leigh Stein, Nicole Sealey)
Archives, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four
How do we, as writers and literary arts organizers, bring about change in the greater literary community? And how do we move from intention and discussion about race, gender, and inequality to action? This panel brings together literary organizations to discuss their roles as social justice activists in the writing community. These prominent members of national literary organizations examine the current issues and challenges facing the community and the steps necessary to move forward.

3PM – 4:15PM
Writerism: The Intersection of Community Activism and Writing Within and Beyond the Academy.
(Ruben Martinez, Luis Rodriguez, Dagoberto Gilb, Aimee Suzara, Michael Warr)
Room 202B, Washington Convention Center, Level Two
Panelists include creative writers who have also been founders or key players in community centers, cultural spaces, magazines, and advocacy organizations. The panel will address the conflicts and confluences of meaningful community activism with writing of skill, integrity, and substance. How does one balance aesthetics, ethics, and social engagement? Where is the border between art and the pamphlet? Writers in communities of color face unprecedented violence today. Are we writers in wartime?

4:30PM – 5:45PM
Iranian Diaspora Writers as Cultural Ambassadors: Engaging Iran After the Nuclear Agreement. (Persis Karim, Sholeh Wolpe, Anita Amirrezvani, Jasmin Darznik, Soraya Shalforoosh)
Salon F, Washington Convention Center, Level One
This dynamic panel features writers/translators who engage Iran and Iranian culture through poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and translation. By sharing their work, these Iranian American writers offer a literary window at a time when we need cultural ambassadors to shape a powerful dialogue about US-Iran relations. Panelists read from their work, discuss the challenges and opportunities for publishing, translating, and participating in a cultural shift as diaspora writers in both the US and Iran.

8:30PM – 10PM
#AWP17 Keynote Address by Azar Nafisi, Sponsored by the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice at Georgetown University.
(Azar Nafisi)
Ballroom A, Washington Convention Center, Level Three
Azar Nafisi is best known as the author of the national bestseller Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, which spent over 117 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list. Her other work includes Anti-Terra: A Critical Study of Vladimir Nabokov’s Novels, the memoir Things I’ve Been Silent About: Memories of a Prodigal Daughter, The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books, and the children’s book BiBi and the Green Voice. Among her numerous honors include the Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger, a Nonfiction Book of the Year Award from Booksense, the Frederic W. Ness Book Award, the Latifeh Yarsheter Book Award, and the Persian Golden Lioness Award for literature. She has lectured and written extensively in English and Persian on the political implications of literature and culture, as well as the human rights of Iranian women and girls. Nafisi is currently a Fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, DC, where she was a professor of aesthetics, culture, and literature, as well as was Director of The Dialogue Project & Cultural Conversations.



9AM – 10:15AM
Translation and Power, Sponsored by ALTA. (John Keene, Lucas de Lima, Erica Mena, Eunsong Kim)
Monument, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four
Translators discuss the power dynamics between translator and author, original and derivative, dominant language and nondominant language, exploring questions of appropriation, exploitation, representation, and ethics. Thinking about how systems of exploitation and oppression are reproduced by cultural creation along lines of linguistic power, these practicing translators consider the ethics at stake in acts of literary translation.

9AM – 10:15AM
Strange Bedfellows: The Unholy Mingling of Politics and Art. (Andrew Altschul, Nick Flynn, V. V. Ganeshananthan, Anthony Marra, Karen Yamashita )
Room 202A, Washington Convention Center, Level Two
If the pen is mightier than the sword, why are young writers so often told that politics and literature don’t—or shouldn’t—mix? The introduction of real-world conflicts interferes with good storytelling, the theory goes, favoring ideas over characters and the general over the concrete. How then can writers find a space to explore the matters of life and death, wealth and poverty, war and governance that affect us all? How should art respond to the terrors of modern life?

9AM – 10:15AM
Latinx Literary Activism: A CantoMundo Roundtable.
(Javier Zamora, Millicent Borges Accardi, Valerie Martinez, Denice Frohman)
Room 207A, Washington Convention Center, Level Two
How are Latinx poets occupying and transforming the roles and responsibilities of literary activists? This panel convenes fellows and faculty from CantoMundo, a national organization for Latinx poets, to discuss their literary activism as organizers, publishers, editors, performers, and directors of organizations that serve Latinx writers. Our round table conversation explores the particular challenges, visions, and contributions of Latinx literary activism.

10:30AM – 11:45AM
Social Justice and Poetic Communities.
(David Welch, Jaswinder Bolina, Reuben Jackson, Dora Malech, Erika Sanchez)
Liberty Salon M, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four
How do poets approach social justice in their practice? How can teachers empower their students and compassionately engage with various communities and experiences? What’s the responsibility of the poet-critic to bear witness? How can journalists promote social change in the arts? The poets on this panel will discuss their creative work and how it both supports and is enriched by their journalism, criticism, and community leadership, as well as how they consider the role of activism throughout their work.

Writers Resist Trump.(Organized by Robert Marshall)
Lobby of Marriott Marquis, then Capitol Hill
We are writers, poets, novelists, critics, essayists, journalists, playwrights and educators committed to resisting the Trump Agenda. During AWP 2017 we will be making a field trip to Capitol Hill to visit the offices of our Senators and Representatives to make the case against the Trump agenda. We’ll meet in the lobby of the Marriott Marquis, the main AWP hotel at 1:30 pm. It’s about 20 minutes by metro and ten minutes by cab to Capitol Hill. Further details and strategy to come. But those from blue districts and states may think about meeting up with friends from more red or purple places. If you make an appointment in advance, you may be able to speak to higher level staffers. Preparing a letter to present in advance is also a good idea; you can obtain signatures from people unable to attend the conference.

1:30pn – 2:45PM
Going There: Writing the Complicated Truth in the World’s Hot Spots.
(Joanna Eleftheriou, Kimberly Meyer, Beth Peterson, Brittany Bennett, Natalie Bakopoulos)
Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, 600 I St NW, Washington DC 20001
In the age of the 30-second news clip, too often places of crisis beyond our borders become oversimplified and stereotyped. In this roundtable panel, four writers practicing in a variety of genres and writing about diverse hot spots—Norway’s collapsing glaciers, bankrupt Greece, the Sinai Desert with ISIS in the north, the US with its racial injustice—will examine ways to harness the energy bred by news clips while navigating the preconceptions readers bring to our work.

2PM – 4PM
Truth to Power Offsite Reading
Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, 600 I St NW, Washington DC 20001
This reading features Joy Harjo, LeAnne Howe, Marilyn Kallet, Martin Espada, Abel Salas, Teresa Mei Chuc, Metta Sama, Patricia Spears Jones, Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, Bryce Milligan, Sarah Browning, Dough Anderson, Hedy Habra, Aliki Barnstone, Jesse Waters, Melissa Suddard and more. Copies of Truth To Power: Writers Respond to the Rhetoric of Hate and Fear will be on sale and for signing by authors. Free to the public.

3PM – 4:15PM
Community Crafting: Reaching Beyond the Classroom to Empower Local Communities.
(Sean Lovelace, BJ Hollars, Sarah Blackman, Jennifer Franklin)
Archives, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four
How do we convince students of the power of integrating classroom experiences within their communities, of the importance of touching lives beyond the page? From senior centers to humane shelters to museums, service learning provides vast opportunities for writers to contribute meaningfully to their communities. But what are the challenges of doing so, and which projects yield the best results? Join panelists as they explore innovative opportunities for writers to impact the world with words.

4:30PM – 5:45PM
We’re Recruiting: Teaching & Enacting Social Justice in the Writing Classroom.
(Melissa Febos, Syreeta McFadden, Colin Beavan, Sreshtha Sen, Rachel Simon)
Marquis Salon 5, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Two
To teach writing is essentially a political act—we give our students the tools to examine and question their culture and the potential to change it. But how much of our own agenda do we bring into our curriculum? How do we teach our students to think and speak critically from their own experience? Teaching writers and activists in realms of racial justice, feminism, LGBTQI, and environmentalism share their methods, successes, and failures to integrate social justice and the pedagogy of writing.

4:30PM – 5:45PM
Young Adult Literature: A Political and Social Revolution.
(Pamela L Laskin, Brendan Kiely, Caroline Bock, Suzanne Weyn, Renee Watson)
Liberty Salon L, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four
The poet Shelley said that writers are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. In this way, young adult literature with its focus on racism, inequality, social injustice, war, and challenged politics, functions as activism. This panel, comprised of four writers and a professor in the field, explores the renaissance of political and social issues in YA fiction. Contemporary culture skates a more dangerous landscape, and in its unsparing honesty, the fiction becomes a form of social action.



9AM -10:15AM
Writing Against Borders: Literature and the (Un)Making of Nationhood. (Dean Rader, LeAnne Howe, Heather Hill, Margaret Noodin)
Liberty Salon N, O, & P, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four
What is the role and responsibility of a writer to a nation? In what way can literary production be an integral part of nationhood? How can writing resist or redefine nationalities? This interdisciplinary panel looks at the many ways fiction, poetry, nonfiction, drama, and film participate in, interrogate, and reimagine nationalism and nationhood. Each of these writers has turned to literature to explore how national identity not only comes to be but comes to be internalized and reinforced.

9AM -10:15AM
Social Media: Breaking Barriers for the Marginalized, the Remote, and the Academic Outsider.
(Kelly Thompson, Sandra Gail Lambert, Vanessa Martir, Michele Filgate, Alice Anderson)
Room 204C, Washington Convention Center, Level Two
Five authors who write from the edges present ways, both practical and emotional, that social media has advanced their careers and craft. Class, disability, gender, education, location, and race are among the barriers to accessing a writing community. But social media can connect those of us who exist at the margins or outside of the academic literary world to editors, publishers, journals, conference leaders, and other writers. It can even serve as an education in itself.

12PM – 1:15PM
The Librotraficantes: Defying the Censorship of Banned Books . (Gianna Mosser, Martin Espada, Luis Rodriguez, Tony Diaz)
Room 207A, Washington Convention Center, Level Two
In 2010, Arizona state legislators signed into law HB 2281, a ban on teaching Mexican American Studies. In Houston, Texas, a group of Chicano writers, poets, artists, and activists hatched an idea: They would bus those banned books into Tucson. “Librotraficantes,” they’d call themselves—book smugglers. Tony Diaz will speak about founding the movement, and Luis Rodriguez and Martín Espada will relate how their works were banned by the Arizona legislation as well as read from the banned books.

3PM – 4:15PM
The Art of War: The Power and Role of the Writer in Times of Crisis.
(Pireeni Sundaralingam, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Lidia Yuknavitch, David Shields)
Room 202A, Washington Convention Center, Level Two
As an increasing percentage of the world is plunged into conflict, our panel brings together award-winning novelists, poets, and nonfiction writers to explore how creative writing can shape, distort, and challenge the way we understand war. Drawing on examples from our own work and the work of others, we will discuss the power of the written word in relation to image and other forms of propaganda, and share our personal experiences of how our books have influenced a wider political discussion.

3PM – 4:15PM
The Personal (Essay) Is Political: Nonfiction as an Agent of Social Change. (
Katie Cortese, Jaquira Díaz, Eric Sasson, Gabrielle Bellot, Matthew Salesses)
Liberty Salon I, J, & K, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four
Online nonfiction venues such as Salon, Slate, and The Atlantic, among others, invite writers to respond to world events through the lens of personal experience while also allowing works to be shared virally via social media. The best of these spur public conversations about issues as pressing as police brutality, rape culture, LGBTQ rights, and more. This panel explores the various roles of the personal essay in contemporary culture, and discuss how words effect change on the world.

6:15PM – 7:15PM
Candlelight Vigil for Free Speech
Lafayette Square, Pennsylvania Ave & 16th Street NW, Washington DC, 20001
A candlelight vigil to keep symbolic and real watch over our rights of free speech and freedom of expression. Speakers will include Eric Sasson and Melissa Febos.

6:30PM – 8PM
Social Justice Mixer
Scarlet Oak Room, Marriott Marquis, Mezzanine Level
Toast another successful AWP with the return of the Social Justice Mixer! Connect with other writers focused on social justice and inclusion. Relax and learn about our organizations: Lambda Literary Foundation, LGBTQ Writers Caucus, CantoMundo.

8PM – 9:30PM
Literary Death Match DC Spectacular

Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW, Washington DC, 20009
Cost: $15
LDM heads to the nation’s capital for a magical night of bent on protesting (and distracting from) the horrors happening over at 1600 Pennsylvanie Ave. Readings from Whiting Award-winners Mitchell S. Jackson, Roger Reeves, Safiya Sinclair, & Elena Passarello. Judged by Claire Vaye Watkins & more TBA!